Quint Kessenich: Taking a final look at the final four
Now, with four teams set to duel for the national title starting Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., that formula still holds true.
The stunners: Loyola is making its first championship weekend appearance in 14 years, and Maryland is in the semifinals for the second straight year despite losing five of last season's starters to graduation.
The usual suspects: Duke made the semifinals for the eighth time despite another rocky start to the season, and the nation's best defense has Notre Dame looking for a berth in the championship game for the second time in three years.
Here's a closer look at each team and what it needs to do to party on Memorial Day:
—By Quint Kessenich, Special to The Baltimore Sun
Loyola attackman Eric Lusby
The top-seeded Greyhounds are making their third trip to championship weekend, having also gone in 1990 and 1998. After an 8-5 campaign in 2011, Loyola was ranked No. 21 in the preseason but added two transfers to the starting lineup (Chris Layne and Sean O'Sullivan) and welcomed back Eric Lusby (Severna Park) from a knee injury. Faceoff man J.P. Dalton (St. Mary's) has gone from a question mark to steady performer, and after a shaky start the goaltending duties have solidified under Jack Runkel. At 16-1 this team is a proven commodity with a top-10 offense (No. 4) and defense (No. 7).
Key to advance
Score in a variety of ways. Loyola is likely to need 10 or more goals to beat the No. 1-rated Notre Dame defense. The 'Hounds must manufacture goals in unsettled situations, off faceoff scrambles, in the substitution game and on extra-man opportunities (where they have converted 48 percent of chances this season) in addition to kicking in a garbage goal.